Virginia Becomes First State to Establish September as African Diaspora Heritage Month


The TACA Diaspora Dance Ensemble opened and closed at the commencement ceremony honoring the establishment of African Diaspora Heritage Month.

The Angolan ambassador to the United States, Joaquim do Espírito Santo, told students and faculty at Old Dominion University that his hope for the future is the unification of all African countries. 

“Unification,” said Santo, “will benefit every nation on the continent.” 

Santo made his remarks on Sept. 10 at the commencement ceremony honoring the establishment of African Diaspora Heritage Month. 

Old Dominion University has partnered with the Tidewater African Cultural Alliance (TACA) to mark the March 3 passage of a bill designating September as “African Diaspora Heritage Month.” 

Virginia is the first state to establish an African Diaspora month. Guests at the event could experience various African cultures through clothing, historical stories and fables, and medical advancements America learned from Africa.

A panel discussion offered more information on the origin and current status of the African Diaspora. It also gave insight on the solutions to the pressing issues found in the African Diaspora and its members. 

Panel members consisted of Ambassador Bismark Myrick, Dr. Kideste Yusef, Dr. Marvin Chiles and Princess Philomena Desmond-Ogugua of Nigeria. 

Desmond-Ogugua was asked, “What is the preferred end result in the push for the education of the African Diaspora?”

“We want this month to become nationally recognized,” she responded. Desmond-Ogugua is certain this will bring all countries in Africa together in the fight for equality across the continent.

The cultural showcase wrapped up the event with a grand display of African-inspired arts. The TACA Diaspora Dance Ensemble opened and closed this section with powerful Angolan, Nigerian and Guinean dances. ODU students were also invited to share their African-inspired arts through dance, spoken word and poetry. 

Students Edith Giron and Brian Flores displayed an Afro-Peruvian dance. David Riddick and Adrian Tierney from the Riddick Dance Company expressed an interpretive number to the song “Trouble of the World” by Mahalia Jackson. Tope Larayetan recited three poems about her experiences as a Nigerian immigrant who has left her family to pursue higher education. Her poem, “Love is 52,625 Miles Away,” enumerated her most nostalgic memories from her home in Nigeria, stating that her “love is 52,625 miles away from Virginia Beach,” where she currently lives.

Event coordinator and TACA member Rita Addico Cohen closed the event by sharing her gratitude and hopes for all the participants and guests who were a part of this commencement. 

“I have been waiting for the opportunity to unite Africans and those of African descent,” she said. 

Cohen believes the passing of Bill HJ133 will educate all Americans that “Africans have the greatest minds because we all descend from Africa.”